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Seeking God in Wild Places | Paul Kingsnorth & Martin Shaw


18:30 - 21:00
Nov 21st 2023

Join Paul Kingsnorth and Martin Shaw for an evening of storytelling and conversation about finding Christ in the wilderness. An in-person event at St Ethelburga’s, with audience Q and A.

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‘Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness’ – Matthew 4: 1

Join Paul Kingsnorth and Martin Shaw for an evening of storytelling and conversation about their conversions to Christianity, how wild landscape features in their religious understanding, and about the wildness of Christ.

‘If we are in the desert – if this is our Exodus – then we can work to understand how we got here and we can wonder, as we wander, about what the Promised Land might look like. As one cycle ends, another begins. The dead leaves of one culture fall to cover the seeds of another, already sown beneath. The more things fall apart – the more the centre cannot hold – the more new centres are seeded on the margins, which is the only place they can ever grow.’ – Paul Kingsnorth

‘Jesus was born a fugitive and died an outlaw. We seem to have forgotten the fiery and mysterious edges of this mystic radical, and we may need to go sit in the wild places to remember them. The God of the Christians is a scandal to modernity. This is a moment of tremendous opportunity. We could quest through the wires and static of our times to find what he has to say directly to us.’ – Martin Shaw, The Outlaw Jesus

More about the theme

Religious experience has always been linked to landscape.  Early Christian mystics, like the desert fathers, often sought out untamed places beyond the bounds of civilisation, where they could devote themselves to spiritual practice.

How can we return to the roots of religious experience in wild places? How does the Gospel sound different when we read it in the wilderness? How can we meet Christ as a figure in and of a wild landscape: a desert-dweller, a storm-tamer and water walker, and as someone who embodied a quality of divine wildness? How can we reclaim a vital Christian faith, awake to the mystery of creation, in an age of ecological devastation?

Paul Kingsnorth and Martin Shaw are close friends who both experienced mid-life conversions to Christianity. This will be an evening of story, scriptural reflection, and honest conversation, about the renewal of Christian faith in dark times.

This event is a part of our Faith and Moral Courage series

At each event, we invite spiritual and faith leaders from diverse backgrounds to explore what it means to respond with faith and courage to the daunting challenges of our times. Past speakers have included Adam Bucko, Jetsumna Tenzin Palmo, Sr Lucy Kurien, Bayo Akomalafe, Toko-pa Turner, Daniel Maté, Paula Boddington and more.

Paul Kingsnorth is the author of nine books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, including the Booker-longlisted novel The Wake. He is co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project, an international network of writers and artists in search of new stories for an age of upheaval. After years of searching through different spiritual traditions in pursuit of truth, including Wicca and Chan Buddhism, he was baptised into the Orthodox church in 2021. He lives on a smallholding in Ireland. 

Dr Martin Shaw is an award winning writer, oral storyteller and mythologist. A wilderness rites of passage guide, Shaw spent four years living in a tent. He founded the Oral Tradition and Living Myth courses at Stanford University and is described by the Irish Times as an “interloper from the medieval”. An Eastern Orthodox Christian, Shaw has introduced thousands of people to myth and how it speaks to our age. 

Why faith and moral courage?  

This conference forms part of a longer event series exploring what faith and moral courage look like in an age of polycrisis. Where does extraordinary courage come from? What can we learn from people who’ve risked everything to live up to their values? What forms of courage are especially needed in our age of unravelling, uncertainty and risk? How can we inspire ourselves and each other to grow our capacity to brave our limits? Are there insights from the world’s spiritual and faith traditions that can help us grow our courage?

This event will be facilitated by Clare Martin

Clare is Co-Director of St Ethelburga’s. Previously Development Director, Clare created and led on the Radical Resilience programme and went on to be the strategic lead on our viewpoint diversity work, before stepping up to co-lead the centre alongside Tarot Couzyn. She brings more than 20 years’ experience facilitating groups for the sake of inner enquiry and outer change, and is interested in how contemplative practices can play a role in cultural repair. 

This event is supported by: